I lost a colleague and dear friend today. He was one of my closest friend at work although we hardly see each other everyday. He was our adviser on sensory and satellite mapping and he does not need to come to the office daily.
But if he does he always drops by my cubicle for a short chat, mostly about the latest movies and books. On a number of occasions I also helped him format and edit his books of memoirs.
He was born in Indonesia to a landed Chinese family and studied in the Netherlands. An expert on mapping, he lived in Tanzania, Kenya, Cambodia, the Philippines, and then Thailand. He also lived in the US for years.
With such a vivid writing style that is full of wide-eyed exuberance, he has since written two memoirs and was about to release his third on Easter. He was eagerly waiting for its publication and he was planning to write another one about his time in Thailand and Cambodia.
"I'm only half alive," he used to proudly tell me almost every time we talked about his health, which is the bulk of our discussions. As he is already in his seventies, he told me that only half of his heart is functioning.
Despite this, he was quite active. On three occasions in fact I went with him on his "laterite explorations" which I wrote about here and here. I came to know his adorable wife during these trips as well. They were such an endearing couple.
In March last year, I went with him on a trip to the controversial Preah Vihear Temple at the Thai-Cambodian border (see entry here). He climbed freaking Preah Vihear, which is no simple feat for a man who could barely walk.
But that's him, he always pushed himself and would oftentimes refuse help from anyone. He insisted on taking the public bus from his house to our office, sometimes even the dreaded motorcycle.
I saw him for the last time last Friday. He seemed to look a lot rejuvenated. He just came back from a Christmas trip to San Francisco where he met his daughters and grandchildren. He then treated me to lunch on the condition that I pay next time. If only there would be a next time.
To Dr Heng Tung, I had wonderful memories of you. 'Til next time.